Tao (タオ) is the life force energy that can be found in every living and non-living thing. It can be manifested and used to increase the beings various abilities, giving them powers similar to that of gods once fully mastered.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Training Exercises
- 3 Tao Users
- 4 Usage
- 4.1 Basic Techniques
- 4.2 Sennin-Level Techniques
- 4.3 Unique Techniques
- 5 Other Applications
- 6 Drawbacks
- 7 Trivia
- 8 External Links
- 9 References
|— Hōko explaining Tao to Sagiri, Yuzuriha, and Senta.|
Tao is the source of everything in existence, be it living or non-living such as earth, water, plants, souls, flesh, air, etc. It has been said that the Tao of living things will end up being consumed by a small amount from the slightest thing that they do such as thinking, breathing, and living. Tao circulates throughout the body and is generated from the being's "tanden" (丹田, Pinyin: Dantian), which is located below the navel. Damage to the tanden acts as a weakness to beings, or individuals, with the regeneration ability known as Flower Tao, which is described further below. When reviewing the concept of death, the Tao of living things will disintegrate when on the verge of dying until it completely vanishes. Although a being's life may pass once they die, Tao will still continue to exist within their corpse but will emit the same sensation as the Tao of inorganics instead of life.
The concept of Yin-Yang is the main component to Tao. Manifestation of Tao is created when one's spirit is balanced by following the Middle Way of Buddhism; meaning that the person must accept both opposing forces from within their hearts, such as their strengths and weaknesses, rage and serenity, intensity and tranquility, stillness and motion, dark and light, etc. There have been some cases where Tao is manifested even if the individual is not fully aware that they are using it. One known method in which this is possible is through blindness, thereby allowing the body to embrace the sensation and detaching themselves from reality. Through proper training spiritually and physically, especially towards aiming at increasing their Yin-Yang cycle, a person can fully master the usage of Tao and are able to increase their reserves.
Emotions that are connected to the poles of Yin-Yang can cause Tao to react, or surge, which in turn causes the Tao of an individual to grow and strengthen, as well as affect both their mind and body. Emotions such as love and anger have been pointed out to be one of the main causes of this phenomenon. For example, Gabimaru's Tao would at times surge whenever his feelings for Yui would manifest. The underlying factor behind this reaction is due to the discord between his desire to return to her and him being separated from her side. Shion also noted that, to Gabimaru, these feelings were linked to both his strength and weakness. These feelings ultimately led him to automatically recover from the Zhu Jin-fused Banko's negative influence over his body after his Tao was strengthen from hearing Shija's confirmation about his wife being real. Shugen's Tao was sensed by Sagiri to be surging wildly after stating his conviction to continue fighting against Rien for the sake of the Yamada clan despite his grave injuries. By accepting the extremes of strength, weakness, and doubt from within herself, Sagiri's Tao gained enough power to allow herself to fight on par with Rien in her Kishikai. According to Rien, there are multiple different ways in which Tao surges depending on the emotional state of the individual. Since Tao can only be held together by the discord between Yin-Yang, a Tao user's Tao will decrease in power if they give in to one side of their emotions.
Life and death have also been pointed out to be two major extremes that effects an individual's Tao as well. Before meeting his end by Shion, Mu Dan sensed how the Asaemon's Tao was surging as a result of putting his life on the line in their battle, having loss a large amount of blood and pushing his body to its limit.
Because they are able to waver between the extremes easily, the Tao of a human is considered to be high quality. For the Tensens, lifeforms who are incapable of wavering between the extremes, they find that witnessing Tao going through this process to be a beautiful sight to behold and that it is for this reason that humans are the perfect material to create Tan.
Every Tao has an attribute to one of the Five Elements (五行, Gogyō, Pinyin: Wǔxíng). The five elements follow a cycle of restoration and hindering effects with one another and is initiated when two individuals make physical contact with each other. These attributes have been proven to greatly affect the flow of battle. The cycle is as follows:
- Wood (木, Moku, Pinyin: Mù) restores Fire and hinders Earth.
- Fire (火, Ka, Pinyin: Huǒ) restores Earth and hinders Metal.
- Earth (土, Do, Pinyin: Tǔ) restores Metal and hinders Water.
- Metal (金, Kin, Pinyin: Jīn) restores Water and hinders Wood.
- Water (水, Sui, Pinyin: Shuǐ) restores Wood and hinders Fire.
The restoration can also work with weapons. By using the lingering traces of Tao left on a weapon by someone of the right attribute, the restorer can give a boost in power to the Tao-imbued weapon once they make physical contact with it. This application was thought of by Gabimaru to boost Yuzuriha's Earth Tao-imbued kunai blades with his Fire Tao in order to deal damage to either Ran or Zhu Jin. The same effect can also happen if the one being restored were to wield a weapon that belonged to the restorer. By wielding Gantetsusai's sword that had traces of his Fire Tao, Jikka received a boost in power to his Earth Tao that allowed him to destroy the Zhu Jin-fused Banko's Water tanden. This use of the restoration, however, cannot counter the hindering cycle when the roles of Sōsei are reversed. For example, Gabimaru's attack on Rien's tanden using Sagiri's Wood Tao sword proved to be ineffective due to the Wood Tao being influenced by Gabimaru's Fire Tao, losing its hindering power in the process.
- Other Interactions
A clash between individuals with the same element will neither have a restoration or a hindering effect. When two beings who possess the same element fight against each other the one with the higher skill of wielding Tao will prove to triumph over the other.
Tao acts as a current flowing around the person's body and is described as being physical and tangible. The speed and size of the current depends on the person's overall strength, and the direction in which the current flows is based on the person's elemental attribute. During a restorative Tao cycle, the person receiving the boost in power will have their current being pushed back. During a hindering Tao cycle, the person being weakened will have their current blocked. The current is depicted as a school of small, liquified sharks swimming around the user. Because their strength is incredibly high, Lord Tensen's currents are depicted having larger sharks swimming around them.
Flower Tao (花タオ, Hana Tao), or Plant Tao (植物のタオ, Shokubutsu no Tao), is Tao derived from flowers that offers a being semi-immortality from its regeneration powers. Tensens, artificial humanoids partially created from Flower Tao, benefit greatly from this Tao as they can regenerate any damage done to their bodies in an instant. Flower Tao causes a reaction to humans known as Arborification, where they bloom flowers from their body and enter into a blissful trance, and are inhabited within special types of flowers, such as the Waitanhua Flower or Mu Dan's Kishikai stingers. The regeneration appear as vines with flowers restoring any lost limbs. Humans who possess Flower Tao also experience the same process but are left with vine markings (that eventually disappear over time) after the damaged area is healed. Another indication of Flower Tao is if a being gains dark sclera around their eyes.
Flower Tao users are greatly affected by Sōkoku. When engaged in battle, if a Flower Tao user were to fight against a Tao user with the inferior elemental attribute compared to their own, the Flower Tao user will have a form of resistance over their attacks, making their victory assured. However, when up against a Tao user with the superior element, the Flower Tao user's regenerative abilities will be weakened from the hindering effects and will ultimately die if their plant ovule, located within their tanden, is destroyed. There are also other methods in how to go about fighting a Flower Tao user using the hindering cycle:
- Strategically, instead of being the one to finish off the Flower Tao user, the individual with the hindering attribute can choose to hold down their opponent to weaken their Tao while an ally makes the attack to their enemy, thereby still maintaining the same rules as the hindering cycle. This was shown when Fuchi decided to weaken Tao Fa's Wood Tao with his Metal Tao by restraining her from behind while Gantetsusai made the cut through her tanden. This strategy however can be perceived as being risky since the attacker would have to be careful as to not harm the hinderer in the process.
- The person with the hindering attribute can be used as a living weapon by having their partner hold them by their feet. This method was thought up by Gabimaru by using Sagiri as a human sword against Rien. This strategy, however, was pointed out to be too irrational.
Aside from the hindering cycle, if a Flower Tao user continues to take too much damage their regeneration speed will be reduced due to their body exerting too much Tao.
A Flower Tao user is also immune to attacks from Tao users who possesses the element that restores their Tao, and in the case that both opponents are Flower Tao users, the two beings enter into a stalemate where neither one can weaken the others regeneration powers; as seen with the fight between Gabimaru and Rien who both could regenerate from the others attacks.
In some cases, a Flower Tao user may not be granted the full effects of the special power. While they were capable of regenerating, the Dōshi could easily be killed if their heads were targeted or if their bodies were incinerated by fire. Due to having consumed a small sample of the Elixir of Life, Yamada Asaemon Shugen did not acquire the supposed immortality the perfected Tan elixir could grant and had only gained a resilient body with a low healing factor.
Hybridization (混じった, Majitta) is when two different Tao's become perfectly fused together. The only known case where this is attempted is when a human tries to gain the powers of Flower Tao. In order to become successful, a human must overcome the Arborification that initiates from Flower Tao by being on the verge of death, a state in which Tao is not being consumed by activities that involves living, and have a strong will to survive, such as having the will to protect someone important no matter what the cost. According to Rien, a fusion of Tao such as this where a human's comes out on top is nothing short of a miracle that has not been seen in over a millennium. However, even if a human managed to acquire the powers of Flower Tao, the effects of the Arborification will accelerate if they regenerate too much, forcing them in trying to resist the vines in their body from taking over.
Training to master Tao requires the Five Training Methods of Immortality: Dō'in, Taisoku, Shu'itsu, Shūten and Bōchū Jutsu.
- Dō'in (導引, Dō'in) involves training through physical exercise, which aims at improving better Tao circulation.
- Taisoku (胎息, Taisoku) involves training through breathing techniques.
- Shu'itsu (守一, Shu'itsu) involves training through meditation.
- Shūten (周天, Shūten) involves training through pathways of the body and organs.
- Bōchū Jutsu (房中術, Bōchū Jutsu, Literal Meaning: Art of the Bedchambers) involves training through sexual intimacy. This training method is said to be the most important since it requires a partner of the opposite chi. By joining in sexual intercourse, the chi's of both Yin and Yang will join and strengthen the two partners' Tao. Bōchū Jutsu can also be use to understand a person's Tao at a deeper level. According to Rien, cooperation is essential on the partner's behalf in order for Bōchū Jutsu to take full effect. Therefore, the two practitioners have to take each others sexual pleasures into account in order to have "harmony".
|Rokurōta †||Yamada Asaemon
|Tao Fa †|
|Ju Fa †||Yamada Asaemon|
|Mu Dan †||Rien †||Yamada Asaemon
|Aza Chōbei||Gui Fa||Yamada Asaemon|
|Mei||Nurugai||Ran †||Yamada Asaemon|
|Zhu Jin †|
|Butterfly Dōshi †||Centipede Dōshi †||Lettuce Dōshi *||Tentacle Dōshi|
|Flower Tao Users|
|Aza Chōbei||Gabimaru||Gui Fa||Hōko †||Ju Fa †|
|Mei||Mu Dan †||Ran †||Rien †||Yamada Asaemon|
|Tao Fa †||Zhu Jin †||Butterfly Dōshi †||Centipede Dōshi †||Lettuce Dōshi *|
Click here to see the legend of the symbols used
- †: the character is deceased.
- *: the character's status is unknown, or show additional information. Hovering the symbol may give further details.
- ‡: the character is no longer part of this group.
From the moment they awaken their Tao, the user gains a sixth sense where they are granted the ability to sense the presence of other Tao around them. By sensing Tao the user is able to capture every single detail of a person's characteristics such as their height, weight, gender and even hairstyle. Since Tao can be found in non-living things as well, the user can sense the Tao of the terrain around them to help guide their way through obstacles and give them a detailed layout of structures. Shion describes the sensation of Tao as sensing "waves" (波, Nami) flowing through the contours of one's body, which creates an aura of light silhouettes within a dark background. Tao that has been lost will show when the person's aura is not completely formed or is fading away. There are two ways in which Tao can be sensed: either by cloaking the body in Tao to "feel out" the surroundings or to gather and focus Tao around the eyes, either having them closed or opened.
By sensing how the Tao moves, the Tao user is able to predict the intentions behind someone's actions. In battle, the Tao user is able to predict their opponent's attack, making it easy for them to avoid and counterattack. It has been proven by users (such as Shion and Mu Dan) that sensory of an opponents Tao to track their movements is far greater than if one were to use their eyes. As greatly demonstrated by the blind Shion who managed to cut every one of Mu Dan's fast oncoming Kishikai stingers perfectly timed and only receive minor scratches. Another example is when Mu Dan blinded himself to show Yuzuriha and Senta that he was able to easily evade their attacks even without the use of his eyes.
Tao sensory can pinpoint the weak spots of a beings Tao and can even use weak strikes to deal damage to the weaken area. During his sparring match with Gantetsusai, Gabimaru was able to sense his weak spot around his strong body and caused him to feel pain with a simply kick. Shugen was able to send a Sōshin's head flying with a single punch after sensing its weaken area around its upper body.
A highly skilled Tao user can also sense a person's elemental attribute corresponding to their Tao.
Tao can be used to enhance the user's combat abilities. Physical attacks or weapons imbued with Tao are stronger than they would normally without. It has been noted by Sagiri and Shion that Tao attacks causes severe damage from within the target's body, being described as if one's very soul has been struck, and can cause fatal damage even if they don't hit vital points.
By cloaking their body with Tao, the user is able to harden their body to shrug off any normal attacks made contact. For example, while unknowingly using it, Rokurōta's Tao provided enough sturdiness to his large bulky body to survive being injured by weapons.
Tao users that are skilled enough to control the flow of their Tao are capable of suppressing it as a way to conceal their presence from others. According to Yuzuriha, this technique is performed when the user has a steady focus on the flow of their Tao by remaining calm and relax. This technique makes it ideal to perform sneak attacks on opponents or for espionage. This concept was first demonstrated by Yuzuriha after her encounter with Mu Dan, as she used a technique that allowed her to switch places with an object while her presence was concealed, and then perform a surprise attack on the Tensen while his guard was down.
Tao can also be used to attack without coming into close-range of the users intended target. This technique was later revealed to be known as Tōate (遠当, Literal meaning: Distant Strike) by Mu Dan. By gathering Tao in their hand, the user launches it as a invisible projectile by delivering an open-handed strike. This form of fighting makes it ideal for attacking those who can not sense Tao since they are unable to dodge the oncoming projectiles. This technique is exclusive to only the Sennin and is impossible to be executed by ordinary Tao-wielding humans, presumably due to the lack of intense training required.
A destructive form of Tao usage where the master Tao user converts their Tao into lightning. The lightning unleashed can effectively cause great damage and severe strain to an opponent's body, as Gabimaru felt himself suffering after taking on two destructive bolts from Zhu Jin in their Kishikai and was unable to use his Ninpō: Hibōshi. This ability has only been shown by Tensens who use the power of their Kishikai. Zhu Jin was the first to use this technique after being forced to fight Gabimaru in their Kishikai, and later against Shion in their partial Kishikai state. Rien also showed usage of this technique after entering her Kishikai where they blasted Gabimaru for attempting to attack her with a technique.
Senjutsu (仙術, Literally meaning: Sage Techniques) is a term that refers to a Sennin's ability to create multiple Tao projectiles. This term was also used by two Dōshi to form a unique transformation using the Paradise insects.
Hōjutsu (方術, Literally meaning: Direction Techniques) is a term used to describe techniques used by Mu Dan that allows him to conceal his presence from his targets sight and mind, which is an advanced version of the basic Tao suppression technique, and create footholds out of the Tao in the air, giving him levitation.
As demonstrated by Ran, the Tao protective cloak can be pushed even further. By stretching his Tao into fine threads and bundling them together around his body, Ran can create a sort of "Tao Armor" that makes him durable enough to withstand strong attacks from his opponents. The Tao Armor is described as being similar to tough muscle fibers and, unlike traditional armor, is said to have no blind spots for his opponents to exploit. Ran's Tao Armor is even strong enough to resist attacks caused by the hindering Tao reaction of Earth-attribute Tao users, as a Tao-imbued kunai thrown by Yuzuriha was shown to simply bounce off his body.
Despite his armor not having any weak spots, Ran's defense can be bypassed if his own Tao is used against him, which can be done by using the Tao redirection method Gabimaru developed. This leaves Ran at the mercy of his opponent since he will suffer damage whether he chooses to use the armor or suppress it.
This ability allows a master Tao user to take control over the Tao of living and non-living things, similar to powers of psychokinesis. The user only needs to exert a small portion of their own Tao to utilize this technique.
The control over living things was first demonstrated by two Dōshi who manipulated the Tao of the human-faced insects on Kotaku to fight against Gabimaru and Gantetsusai. This technique also works as a certain-kill method to take down enemies as Rien would frequently use this ability to crush her opponent's bodies with a single grip of her hand. When not used to cause harm, the master Tao user can use this ability to heal the wounds of others within their presence, as Rien did so on the fatal wounds she inflicted on Gabimaru and Sagiri before passing away.
The control of non-living things was first shown by Rien who demonstrated this ability to Chōbei by setting an incense alight. She would later use this technique again to remotely control the Tao of the ship she was sailing on in her voyage to Japan, as well as keep the flames that were burning the ship from rising. This ability can also be used to restore anything that has been damaged, demonstrated when Ran restored a pillar and how Rien instantly repaired the major damage done to her ship by Gantetsusai as if nothing had happened.
An adept user, such as Ran, can push their control even further by applying shape to the inorganics, such as creating spikes for binding or attacking his targets. Though the objects are controlled by Tao they are unable to cause a hindering reaction.
This ability has been shown by Gui Fa where they emit their Tao from their hand and sends it above their intended target, causing them to be weighed down by the immense pressure.
So far, Gui Fa, Mei, and Rien are the only ones to have demonstrated the ability to create illusions through their Tao. By first clapping their hands together, the user creates a dark space around them and anyone in their presence and projects a setting of whatever they are trying to convey to their target, such as past memories, future events, or a false moment in the present. The illusion seems to tap into a target's cerebral nervous system to affect their five senses, as Sagiri was shown suffering mentally after the illusion of her undergoing Arborification had ended. The Tao illusion can only be broken by outside forces.
A technique demonstrated by Gui Fa where they use their Tao to create a small ball of flame which hovers above their hand to illuminate their surroundings, similar to a lantern.
Redirection is a method of fighting developed by Gabimaru, as a way to combat against Lord Tensen, that allows a Tao user to use their opponent's Tao against themselves, making it a strategy that is perfect to counter against powerful Tao users without having to worry about the hindering cycle or wasting any of the user's own Tao in the process. In order to initiate the redirection, the user must follow the required steps:
- Suppression: The Tao user must first weaken a single part of their body. Gabimaru came up with this step after learning from Shion on how to manipulate Tao in certain areas of the body and from Yuzuriha on how Tao can be suppressed.
- Deflecting incoming attacks: After suppressing their Tao, the user must withstand and deflect their opponent's incoming attacks. To successfully ward off the attacks properly, the Tao user must synchronize their breathing with their opponent's Tao by following the principles of the Middle Way; by going between the extremes of tranquility and intensity. Gabimaru came up with this step after learning from Sagiri's fight with Rokurōta.
- Riding the current: Finally, the Tao user must ride their opponent's Tao current and send it back with an attack to deal major damage. Gabimaru came up with this step after learning from the training he had with Nurugai on how an opponent's Tao can be used against them.
The drawback to this method of fighting is that since the practitioner must suppress a little of their Tao their body becomes less sturdy and must endure even a single graze from their opponent. Therefore, this technique should not be heavily relied on in a prolong fight. This also does not mean that the hindering cycle can be ignored since the right elemental attribute is still needed to cause a fatal blow.
Cloning is a specialized form of Tao manipulation used by Rien where she can construct synthetic bodies of herself and remotely control them from afar, using them as body doubles. The body of the puppet clones are each constructed with Flower Tao to allow for automatic repairs should they be damaged and have plant ovules within their tandens to act as a core link to the main body. Along with creating puppet clones of herself, Rien could also choose to grant her clones with their own individuality, characteristics, and free will, which was how the Tensens came to be. Gui Fa noted that this ability far surpasses even a Tensen's capability to control Tao.
Since Tao exists in everything it is credited with being the source of all superhuman abilities.
- Main article: Ninjutsu
Ninjutsu (忍術, Literally meaning: Ninja Techniques) is the fighting style used by shinobi where they can perform superhuman abilities after undergoing abnormal training.
The usage of Tao acts as a double-edge sword. Since Tao is basically the user's life force, using too much of it can cause great strain to the user's body and improper usage can cause death. The signs show up as nosebleeds, heavy breathing, and fatigue. Tao can also run the risk of eating away at the user's mind, leaving them with amnesia and can only be healed with a Tao restoration.
Though Tao grants the user the ability to predict attacks, the Tao user must have a steady concentration on what attacks they are trying to avoid. While Mu Dan was concentrating on avoiding Sagiri's attacks, he was unable to predict Yuzuriha and Senta's attacks on his legs due to only focusing his attention on one person. This was shown again when Mu Dan failed to notice Senta's attack from behind, as he was conflicted with fighting Yuzuriha, losing his concertation in the process. Also, this power does not necessarily change the speed of the user to make them any faster than normal; meaning that the user's prediction ability can be counter if they face an opponent who is too fast for them to react on time. While Gabimaru was successful in keeping track and reacting well to Shija's movements, Sagiri was unable to do the same due to not possessing equal speed and reflexes as the two. A Tao user's sensory ability is also limited to sensing things with no intent, which makes it troublesome for them to anticipate the movements of thrown objects such as weapons, as shown when Mu Dan was unable to avoid Sagiri's thrown sword at his tanden.
When two Tao users are up against each other, the user with the stronger Tao can bypass the defense of the other Tao user. An example being Chōbei, whose Tao was rapidly growing, crushed a Dōshi's hand when its entire body was cloaked in it. This rule also applies with Tao attributes. After cloaking his body in a strong layer of Tao, Ran was able to deflect Yuzuriha's Tao imbued kunai despite her baring Earth-attributed Tao.
Talking is known to disrupt a person's flow of Tao if the user plans on suppressing it to hide their presence. Since their Tao is suppressed, the user is unable to sense the Tao around them since sensing it requires the user to focus their Tao around their eyes, thereby giving out their location.
- The term "Tao" is used by those who study in Taoism. As noted by Yuzuriha, the life force energy may also be referred to as "ki", or "qi", based on the difference in culture. Since they came to the island with no full knowledge of life energy and are centered around Taoism, the surviving criminals and executioners use the term "Tao" throughout the series. Before coming to the island, Shion used the term "waves" to refer to the sensation, which was coined by Shugen in the past, but has since moved on to calling it "Tao" after learning one of the proper ways of referring to the energy.
- Additionally, the concept of practicing Tao and utilizing it in a fighting style can refer to Qigong, or Taoist Qigong.
- The fighting style Lord Tensen uses with Tao is similar to the Chinese martial art Baguazhang, a fighting style that utilizes circle walking and internal power to their various strikes (palm, fist, elbow, fingers, etc.), kicks, joint locks, and throws. Baguazhang is also one of the martial arts used in Taoism.
- Shion theorized that warriors who went down in history were able to wield Tao whether they were aware of it or not.
- Xu Fu's Tao is described as being "mystic".
- According to Mei, a Tensen's Tao is at its weakest during the night due to the nature of nyctinasty, which also applies to the Banko. It is unknown if this weakness applies to all Flower Tao users.
- Rien claims that using Tao manipulation to take control of the will of living beings is not a simple task to accomplish. However, two Dōshi were shown to have contradicted this statement by controlling the Paradise insects, which was done before this statement was made. A possible assumption for this is that it is a simple task for a Sennin-level Tao user to take control of a being with a weak conscious than one with a strong conscious.
- Gabimaru noted that his strategy of using his opponents Tao against themselves is similar to the concept of Kakei or Tenshikei movements of Tai Chi, as well as Sumo or Yawara.
- The Water attribute has the most confirmed Tao users in the series.
- Humans acquiring the powers of Flower Tao is considered an act of losing one's humanity.
- According to Nurugai, there was a certain individual in her tribe that was able to see through sound, which she compared to Shion's ability to sense Tao.
- Yamada Asaemon Shugen is the only known Tao user that possesses more than one elemental attribute.
- Gabimaru associated the ability to use Tao as illusions to be similar to genjutsu. Whether the two techniques are the same or different is unknown, as the workings behind genjutsu had not been fully explored in the series, however, since Tao is credited as being the source of ninjutsu, as well as all supernatural abilities, it is quite possible that the two are the same.
- Qi – Wikipedia article on the principle that Tao and other similar principles are derived from.
- Taoism – Wikipedia article on the religious principles of Taoism.
- Jigokuraku Chapter 66, page 5
- Jigokuraku Chapter 61, page 16